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I’ve been thinking about this travel quote a lot lately. Normally I only post quotes I can find attribution for, but this one is too good to pass up.

Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer

I have always struggled with a lust for material things. Clothes, shoes, books, furniture and things to fill a nonexistent home with… I want them all. And one of the things I have loved about long-term travel and living as an expat is that my irrational desire for these things disappears when I am fulfilled by other things and removed from a situation (basically, living in New York) where I am bombarded by the material world and all my complicated emotions surrounding it. I feel like I used to spend a lot of time feeling envious of those who seemed to have more than me (in a material/monetary sense), frustrated that I didn’t have the same, and then on top of it all, guilty, because really I did have more than anyone could ever need. Travel, and the perspective I gained from it, freed me from those emotions, and it was exhilarating. I spent far more money than I made last year (luckily I had the savings to do so), have almost zero physical things to show for it, and yet I still feel rich… rich with warm memories, unbelievable experiences, true friendships and an opened mind.

Since my temporary return home I am struggling again somewhat. The entire contents of my overflowing closet seem out-of-fashion and drab compared to what everyone else is wearing, the stores I used to spend hours perusing are calling to me and I feel in desperate need of retail therapy. But I’m fighting the feeling and working hard to remind myself that I have more material things than any person could ever need, I’m grateful for what I have, and my current resources are limited. I would rather spend them on experiences than I would on a 44th pair of shoes (yes, I just counted). The memories and the lessons from travel and experiential purchases such as a beautiful hot air balloon ride over the Laotian countryside last far beyond the soles wearing out on that new pair of shoes.

For me, travel truly is the only thing I buy that makes me richer. What do you think?

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29 comments… add one

  • I do think that money-wise, travel is one of the things that you’ll never regret investing in. However, I think it’s important to remember that different people have different passions – my friends just bought a cottage and are really enjoying working on the land that came with it, developing their own veggie gardens, and making a “nest” for themselves. It’s not my idea of paradise, but that’s what makes them happy, and it’s more rewarding than jetting off to new corners of the earth.

    Also, I’ve never been one of those people who has a singular passion in life, so I think that travel is really just one of many things that can transform us and yes, make our lives richer. I am a HUGE reader, and while I know I won’t really be able to bring my library with me as we go, books are one thing that I will never regret spending money on! It’s all about priorities, I suppose, and remembering that for those of us who don’t have infinite resources, we have to pick and choose what we spend our money on.
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted..China Visa Woes, Oh Noes!

    • Alex
      May 29 2012

      Steph you are totally right, and maybe I came off a little too strong in those post- while I think travel is and should be MY biggest priority right now, that’s not the case for everyone. For some it might be the education that leads to a great career, for some it might be the home that leads to a beautiful family. And I guess I should have put the emphasis on “experiential things” rather than just “travel”…. even here at home I’d rather spend my money going out to a meal or seeing a show with a close friend than on a fantastic bedazzled pillow for my bedroom (though I really struggled with that decision when I was at Target yesterday.)

      You really made me think! Thank you for this comment!

  • Gaelyn
    May 29 2012

    I’d much rather invest in travel and be filled with memories than buy a bunch of overpriced stuff I don’t need just to keep up with others. How about a thrift store fix?
    Gaelyn recently posted..Echo Cliffs

    • Alex
      May 29 2012

      Glad to hear from a kindred spirit! I love me some thrift stores (and really I was always a bargain shopper- my closet is filled with Target and H&M finds) but right now for me its not just about money but also about having too much… I was not exaggerating when I said my closet it overflowing! I want to live a simpler life with fewer physical things, but it’s a struggle because I hate to get rid of things. Sigh.

  • Bridget
    May 29 2012

    Buying the right stocks also makes me richer ;)

    But yes I agree, spending money on travel is much better than spending money on stuff. I love traveling — which is why I love your blog so much!
    Bridget recently posted..Europe 2012 planning update!

    • Alex
      May 29 2012

      Haha, you got me there… great comment! Care to share your stock market secrets? :) And thanks for the blog love!

  • Steven Houser
    May 29 2012

    Your family is pretty well off and you do nothing but travel. it sounds like you need a reality check if material goods are even a concern/cause of jealousy, etc. in your life.

    • Alex
      May 29 2012

      Hi Sam, I am publishing your comment because I’d like the chance to respond to it. I think I’m pretty honest in this post about the complicated nature of these emotions and the associated guilt, etc. Perhaps I am a bad person for struggling with envy and lust for material things, etc., but I am at the least always striving to be a better person and less materialistic. Better to be self aware and always trying to improve ourselves than to be in denial of our faults, right?

      It is true that my family is pretty well off, though that doesn’t really correlate to my current lifestyle outside the occasional trip I take with my parents. (Not that I am denying what I good hand I have been dealt- I have been and I am so grateful). But today my travels and my lifestyle are funded 100% by profits from this website, my freelance work, and the work I was doing overseas. I am proud of my hard work and happy to be living this life today.

  • Krista C.
    May 29 2012

    You are so right Alex! I have struggled with this as well. Travel opened my eyes and heart to what truly matters to me and that is not material things. I do make an exception for books however, I do love to read.
    I still have more clothes and shoes then I need but I’m a lot better then before. Everyone has priorities and mine is spending time outdoors, primarily hiking and traveling.

    • Alex
      May 29 2012

      Books have and always will be a weakness of mine as well. Right now I’m going through a major “cleansing” and I’ve forced myself to only keep what can fit on my big bookshelves- it’s a struggle! Part of the reason I started my book giveaway series is I want a way to “keep” my books (by preserving my thoughts and reflections about them in this little online journal here) but also give them new life by passing them on to readers.

  • Emily in Chile
    May 29 2012

    I love this sentiment. Although I would argue that I have a couple of pairs of shoes that make me feel so good I think it counts as feeling richer :)
    Emily in Chile recently posted..Giveaway: UnoTelly DirectDNS

    • Alex
      May 29 2012

      Ha, Emily I feel you on that. There are a few things in my closet that I just look and and feel JOY. However, that is probably a dozen things out of the hundreds (?) in my closet! I need to start being a little pickier, I think!

  • Hahahaha I love Emily’s comment! This is exactly why I left NYC. Best city in the world, but it definitely teaches the wrong values in life.
    Andi of My Beautiful Adventures recently posted..Macau: Day 2 (Part 4)

    • Alex
      May 29 2012

      Andi I’m so glad I’m not the only one that struggled with this in New York. It brought out a lot of ugly parts of my personality, basically the ones I wrote about here, I was really surprised when they pretty much melted away when I left. Now I just need to find a way to all that centered-ness I found around the world and apply it to wherever I am :)

  • Nadia
    May 29 2012

    Steven Houser needs a little reality check. Many of us, especially those of us that grew up in the States, were force fed a consumerist culture from the time we were toddling. I am glad that young people, such as yourself, are discussing these issues publicly so that others might choose to deny the culture in which we were raised. I know that your travels are often challenging and laborious on your fixed income and I thank you for sharing your experiences in an honest and forth right manner.

    • Alex
      May 30 2012

      Hey Nadia, thanks for the words of encouragement. I completely agree that consumerism is king here in the States in a way that it really isn’t (and doesn’t have the luxury to be) in other countries. I think that explains why something that didn’t phase me (faze me?) for a year is suddenly eating away at me again now that I’m home. It is a struggle but I’m just trying to apply the things I’ve learned through my time in other parts of the world and apply them to my life here.

      • Shannon
        May 30 2012

        I’m totally with Nadia on this one! Alex, there is no doubt in my mind you have worked your butt off and earned every penny that you have spent on travel. Some of us choose travel as a priority and sometimes others see that as a luxury.. what they don’t understand is that we sacrifice in other areas of our lives in order to satisfy our travel needs! Feeling the desire to collect material goods is something I struggle with every single day. Sometimes I’m good and able to save every penny one week, but others I end up splurging on small items like cute sandals or a sparkly headband. The flip side is I sometimes face feeling buyer’s remorse. One thing I can say for sure – I won’t be thinking about that sparkly headband when I’m in the middle of the jungle or walking the streets of India. Regardless, being on a spending diet is just like being on a food diet – you have to let reward yourself once in a while! Maybe try a “clothing swap” with some girlfriends!

        • Alex
          May 30 2012

          Shannon, love this comment. I definitely feel like I can’t win when I’m in a consumer situation, because if I buy something I, like you, experience buyers remorse. If I don’t buy anything I feel weirdly bitter and deprived, even though like I said there is nothing I need. Ridiculous! So I just try not to put myself in those situations…. I haven’t stepped foot in a mall since getting back.

          Also, LOVE what you said here: “One thing I can say for sure – I won’t be thinking about that sparkly headband when I’m in the middle of the jungle or walking the streets of India.” So true!

  • Andrea
    May 30 2012

    I struggle with this as well…Korea has amazing shopping (and it’s a really image-focused culture here), but I am constantly reminding myself that for every thing I don’t buy here, I’ll have more money for traveling afterwords.
    Andrea recently posted..The Waikiki of Asia: Busan’s Haeundae Beach

    • Alex
      May 30 2012

      Yup, that’s really the only method that works for me! I think, okay instead of buying that gossip magazine I could buy dinner on the beach in Thailand, instead of that new dress I could stay in a hostel in London for a night, etc. It works… most of the time :)

  • LozinTransit
    June 1 2012

    I think most things we desire and buy are knowledge and feelings. Material possessions buy us that too – status, confidence, attractiveness. But these things can go out of fashion and we discard them. Ultimately all feelings are fleeting and we need to replenish it, to keep it in season. We do that with travel too, we want to hit the road again just like we want to keep up with the latest trend.

    The experiential is lasting because it seeps into our bones. It can never truly be taken away from us.
    LozinTransit recently posted..Camera Games: Spy VS Spy in Portugal

    • Alex
      June 1 2012

      What a beautiful and insightful comment, thank you! It’s true, wanderlust never wanes, just as the desire for “fashionable” possessions never does!

  • Sam
    June 4 2012

    I love this post! I agree completely, and to be honest, I think if anything, coming from a ‘well off’ family encourages a person to stay home and strive toward financial security, so I am on your side when you say that occasional trips with your family do not facilitate of your current (commendable) lifestyle. Travel is only a luxury when you look at it at an ‘all expenses tour’ ‘souvenir shop’ ‘seven day getaway’ sort of way. Making a life goal of exploring the world slowly and carefully is a way of life which is only a luxury if you make mediocre things like material goods your first priority. I think that people like ‘Steven Houser’ just don’t realise that.
    Sam recently posted..// V A M O O S E

    • Alex
      June 5 2012

      Very interesting point you make here about growing up, as I call it, “comfortable” and then choosing a much less secure path. I definitely have had minor freak outs when I realize that there is a .004% chance that I will ever own a home comparable to the one I was raised in, with the lifestyle I am currently leading. But priorities are called priorities for a reason, and I really don’t think we as humans are meant to “have it all”…. the things we choose to prioritize in life taste so much sweeter because we know how much we have given up just to have them.

  • Spencer Spellman
    June 24 2012

    Really dig the idea behind this with the travel quotes since its things like this that I enjoy musing about so much on my own blog. I find myself in the same position. I traveled for nearly a year in 2010/2011 and am now on month 1 of a four month trip. It feels like a constant wrestling match of buying things that I feel like I’m supposed to as a 29 year old adult, versus investing in travel experiences. I remember when I first moved to San Francisco last year and bought my first piece of furniture, I said to the salesman: “That’s a round-trip ticket to Belize.”
    Spencer Spellman recently posted..Discovering the Biodiversity of Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula

    • Alex
      June 25 2012

      Ha, I’m sure the salesman loved that. I actually say things like that to myself constantly when I am struggling over a purchase. Even something like a t-shirt can buy a night on the beach in a bungalow in Thailand!

  • Apple Country Resorts
    November 23 2012

    Very nice blog. Really liked it. Keep posting.

  • Rithy
    January 8 2013

    This is very nice blog. Love it.

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